Tanya Tagaq and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory deliver awe-inspiring performance, on stage in Toronto
If you wanted to prepare yourself for this edition of Voices3 at Canadian Stage, featuring Tanya Tagaq + Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory you could watch Tagaq’s video Retribution, which is a collaboration between the two. In the comfort of your home, you might feel prepared. You aren’t, but until the lights go down, and the theatre is as dark as an arctic night you would think you were prepared. And then Tagaq + Williamson Bathory would be there in the room with you, live and holy, and you will find yourself brilliantly discomfited in whole new way.
Tagaq and Williamson Bathory have created, in their collaboration, a wall-to-wall artistic commentary on Indigeneity in the face of colonialism, and it is a particularly and specifically feminist commentary. The work is frankly sexual, finely calibrated, and obviously designed to be overwhelming to the colonizer mentality while welcoming to Indigenous. It bears not only the news but also the weather and commentary, an entire dispatch from a place that is rarely seen on a stage.
In Voices3, Tagaq creates a soundscape and Williamson Bathory performs movement work (to say “sings” or “dances” feels diminishing). This includes the traditional Greenlandic dance uaajeerneq, and Tagaq’s signature throat-singing. This is nothing like the division of labor to which a Toronto theatre-going audience would be accustomed in such pairings. They are a synergy, feeding each other in energy and spirit, creating an emotional landscape that ranges from heartbreakingly tender to loss and rage so large it seems like it should consume them, but doesn’t. Sound storms scour the stage and dazzles of poetry follow as both speak and perform their words. They are women who have walked through the fire already, and made it their friend and ally. It was awesome, by which I mean: I sat in awe.
Unsettling, powerful, beautiful, and disturbing, this work feels designed to push the audience to a place I know as “productive discomfort,” a pedagogical tool used to push learners out of their comfort zone so they can consider ideas in a new light, in a new context. It worked. I felt pulled into the cultural place they jointly created and required to consider my position relative to theirs in their space, not in mine. In their space, Inuit women’s sexuality is for their pleasure and not for outside consumption. In their space, femininity is immeasurably powerful and endlessly flexible whether holding and healing or repelling and remonstrating.
At a time when we are beginning to have public conversations about powerful men, and how they have mistreated women’s bodies, in a time in which the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is still active and unresolved, it is remarkable to watch Tagaq + Williamson Bathory flip that script and be sexual, powerful, lyrical and unstoppable in this edition of Voices3. If you can get a ticket, and only a few are still available, go.
- Tanya Tagaq + Laakuluk Williamson Bathory in Voices3 are in concert at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street) until March 24, 2018.
- Performances are Friday March 23 at 7:00 pm and Saturday March 24 at 8:00 pm
- Tickets range from $35 – $69 and can be purchased online, in person at the box office or by calling 416 368 3110. Both remaining shows are nearly sold out.
- Run Time: 70 minutes
- Audience Advisory: This performance features uaajeerneq, a traditional Greenlandic mask dance that uses highly physical movement to explore themes of sexuality and the body. Patrons can expect mature content with potential audience/performer body contact.
Photo of Laakuluk Williamson Bathory provided by Canadian Stage Company